We need to give shopworkers the kindness and respect they deserve this Christmas and New Year
By Chris Brook-Carter, chief executive for the Retail Trust
Amidst retail’s busiest time of the year, new research for the Retail Trust’s respect retail campaign has revealed the scale of often unreported and unrecorded aggression and violence facing UK shop workers.
From regular threats and verbal assaults to increasingly dangerous physical altercations, we’ve found that being shouted at, spat on, threatened or hit is becoming ‘part of the job’ for far too many people in our industry.
People like Jo, an experienced store manager from Hampshire, who told us: “I was threatened by a guy five months ago who said, ‘I will flob down your throat then kill you. I go home and my other half says you shouldn’t have to put up with that, but it’s become part of my job.”
“I have worked in retail for 23 years and I have never known it so bad.”
Jo’s experience is unfortunately far from unusual. Our survey of over 1,600 retail workers discovered that 90% have suffered this kind of abuse at work and more than a third now face it weekly.
There’s also been a 34% rise in the number of retail-related incidents being reported to Peoplesafe, a provider of people protection technology that we’ve partnered with for this year’s respect retail campaign.
And almost half of those we polled say they now feel unsafe going into work as a result, while more than a third are considering leaving retail because of how bad it’s getting.
That’s why we’re urging more retailers to join the Retail Trust’s respect retail campaign by signing up here. As well as showing your support alongside the more than 70 other businesses who have joined us so far, you’ll be able to access resources and recommendations to better help people working for your organisation.
We know there’s no silver bullet solution to fixing this complex issue but we do believe retailers, alongside the police and government, have an often critical role to play. And we’re seeing the organisations we work with at the Retail Trust take action by strengthening policies related to workplace safety and harassment or putting in place more training for dealing with difficult customers.
But one in four retail workers we’ve spoken to told us they do not report abuse now, mainly because they believe nothing will come of it or due to previously unhelpful responses from the police. So this also underscores the importance of creating environments where employees feel supported to report every incident, so businesses and the police have the evidence they need to take further action.
At the Retail Trust, we’ve joined forces with the British Retail Consortium, Usdaw, Foot Anstey LLP, Peoplesafe and leading retailers, including Co-op, Ann Summers, B&Q, BP, Primark and WHSmith, so that we can better protect and support the wellbeing of all our colleagues.
And if this is something you’re experiencing at your business, please do reach out to us so that we can help give retail workers everywhere the kindness and respect that they deserve in 2024 and beyond.
Join the Retail Trust’s respect retail campaign by signing up here. Or call the Retail Trust helpline on 0808 801 0808 if you need any help dealing with your experiences.